High-profile judge now keeping a low profile

Updated April 30, 2017 - 9:10 pm

This isn’t like Steven E. Jones, the former Clark County Family Court judge with a common name but an uncommon style.

For him to be released from federal prison on April 12 — he spent most of his sentence at a minimum-security facility in California — but not have it reported in the media until Wednesday means that for some reason he’s trying to keep a low profile, which was as unnatural for him during his time as a judge as it is for a snake to try not to slither.

Could he be embarrassed?

After all, this man sentenced in 2015 to 26 months of incarceration for a 10-year investment scam is still pulling in about $70,000 a year even as the feds garnish 25 percent of his $120,000 annual retirement income after taxes to make $2.9 million restitution to victims.

The latest census figures show the annual median household income in Las Vegas at $51,553,00.

No, come to think of it, Jones, 59, isn’t embarrassed when he gets over on other people.

He wasn’t embarrassed when he had his pregnant wife arrested for domestic battery, or by briefly jailing his daughter, or by his own domestic violence charge (later dismissed).

Nor was he embarrassed to go into the courthouse parking lot in his judicial robes to keep a duped investor happy. Nor was he embarrassed to have another duped investor meet him in chambers.

Jones and five co-defendants all pleaded guilty to persuading people to lend them money under the guise of quick repayment at high interest rates. They indicated they needed funds to secure valuable property and water rights, which were actually nonexistent. Jones admitted he used his judgeship to ensure the scheme seemed on the up and up.

Yes, Jones had an uncommon style. He was instrumental in opening a weight room on the third floor of the family court center in space reserved for future courtrooms.

His body work didn’t go unnoticed. Emails released during a 2013 judicial discipline hearing — he was also in trouble with state authorities on separate charges — revealed in 2011 his then-girlfriend, Lisa Willardson, a deputy district attorney, described him as “freaking hot.”

It was also revealed that Jones and Willardson exchanged 2,500 text messages in two months.

Although they were in a relationship, Jones allowed Willardson to prosecute cases in his courtroom.

Their love affair didn’t go well. He was suspended from hearing cases for three months on ethics charges after allowing her to try cases in his court. She lost her job — and died not long afterward. After Christmas 2013, Jones found Willardson dead in her home — the coroner ruled drugs caused her accidental death.

So why is Jones keeping a low profile today? His attorney, Robert Draskovich, didn’t return calls.

Word is the muscular former jurist is looking for a job.

Given that Jones likes people to think he’s tough, I think I know. And maybe he is embarrassed, after all.

Now that he’s out of prison, he probably hates to say he was an inmate at the Taft Correctional Institution, rated by CNBC’s “American Greed” show as one of “the best places to go to prison.”

In a 2012 interview on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, former Taft inmate Victor Conte noted the prison didn’t have fences but it did have wonderful recreation as well as sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It was so nice, he said, some prisoners didn’t want to leave.

It’s got to be embarrassing for pseudo-tough guy Jones to reveal he went to a prison for wimps.

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday and Tuesday in Nevada &The West and Monday in Health. Contact him at pharasim@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.

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